Last Updated on December 9, 2021 by Kelvin Nielsen
Like most things in life, it depends!
Tenants have right to privacy. Your landlord cannot barge in on you without your consent. Even stopping by to say ‘hi’ can amount to landlord harassment, especially if done over a couple of times.
That being said, this right must be balanced against your landlord’s right to entry. Sometimes, your landlord may need to enter your home in order to carry out an important responsibility, such as maintain the unit or show it to a prospective tenant.
While you cannot unreasonable deny entry by your landlord, your landlord has an obligation to follow all state and local laws regarding entry into a tenant’s home.
Roughly, 30 U.S. states have statues regarding landlord entry. They specify when, why and how a landlord can legally enter their tenant’s rented premises.
The states with statutes on landlord entry are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Montana.
Others are Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington.
Those without a statute on landlord entry are Wyoming, West Virginia, Texas, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Missouri, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois, and Georgia.
What if my state lacks a statute on privacy?
In such a case, you’ll have to do some research on case laws or seek help from a qualified attorney. Regardless, though, all tenants in the U.S. have privacy rights under the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.”
According to this legal principle, all tenants have a right to be left to enjoy their property in peace and quiet. This can come in handy if your landlord persists in unlawful entries that grossly interfere with your right to kick back, relax, and not worry about who’s coming unannounced.
Can a landlord go through my personal belongings?
Your landlord can only enter your rented premises under certain situations. They are as follows.
- When given permission by the tenant.
- In case of an emergency.
- To take care of needed or requested repairs.
- To show the property to prospective tenants, buyers or lenders.
- If the landlord believes you have abandoned the unit.
- To inspect the unit for damage or lease adherence.
These are the only legally justified reasons for landlord entry, and going through your personal belongs isn’t one of them. So, it’d be illegal if your landlord went through your personal belongings without your consent.
Even if your landlord suspects illegal activity, they would have to contact law enforcement. It’d then be upon the law enforcers to seek a search warrant for your apartment.
Another exception would be in case of emergency. But even so, they must not go through anything that violates your right to privacy.
How much notice do landlords have to give tenants prior to entry?
It depends on each individual state. Generally speaking, though, most states require landlords to provide their tenants with a notice of at least 24 hours before the entry.
A few states, such as California, require landlords to provide a “reasonable” amount of notice. In such a case, you’d want to find out from your landlord what “reasonable” means.
Besides providing proper notice and having a justified reason, landlords are also required to enter within a “reasonable times”. Anywhere between 9AM and 6PM during weekdays, and between 10AM and 1PM during weekends would seem to be reasonable times.
Can you deny entry by your landlord?
As a tenant, you cannot unreasonably deny entry by your landlord. You can request your landlord to move it to a later date, though. However, you’d be in violation of your lease or rental agreement to prevent entry to your landlord for a legitimate reason.
If you object a legal entry by your landlord, the following are the options your landlord may have.
- An eviction. As long as your landlord is in compliance with all applicable laws, your refusal would be tantamount to gross violation of the lease.
- Nonrenewal at the end of the lease. If your landlord concludes that you are a difficult tenant to deal with, they may simply choose not to renew your lease when it expires.
Do you have reasons to believe your landlord has violated your privacy rights? If so, there are a couple of things you can do. One, simply write them a letter. Cite the dates it happened, as well as the applicable laws prohibiting it.
Two, call the police. Although the police may say this is a civil matter, this can be a great way to document the occurrence.
Last but not the least, you can choose to sue your landlord in a small claims court, especially if your landlord’s behavior is persistently outrageous. Supposing your landlord caused you 75 hours of serious upset, and you value your time at $25 per hour, the lawsuit would amount to $1,875.
Hi, I’m Kelvin Nielsen, an experienced landlord and accomplished real estate lawyer. My focus is on answering your questions about renting in the hopes of making your life as a renter or a landlord a bit easier.